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Adventures in Feltmaking

I hope everyone had a relaxing Christmas – ours was wonderfully uneventful, offering time to pause and draw breath after the madness that was our run up to Christmas. A chance to catch up on the housework, spend time with the family and have lots of long lie ins. I even had the chance to do something creative, and add lots more ideas to the growing list of projects I want to tackle – eventually!

I’ve been meaning to have a go at feltmaking for quite some time – and have had the raw materials sitting in a cupboard for over a year now. I decided to start with making some felt balls – these are really easy to make and great to do with children – even toddlers can create something worthwhile by themselves, and it’s a wonderful tactile and sensory activity too.

I first tried this as a drop-in workshop for kids many years ago at a museum where I was curator, it was a lovely sunny day, so we were able to take the activity outdoors. It turned out to be really popular and successful, so I definitely wanted to try this with my own kids – its just taken me a long time to get round to it!

These are surprisingly addictive to make, and would also make a great activity for a party. All you need to get started is some wool tops in a variety of colours (a little really does go a long way), hot water and washing-up liquid or soap flakes.

 

Felt Balls in Line

 

 

Wool Tops

Gorgeous wool tops – ready to be felted!

 

Firstly you pull off a short length of wool tops, and tease it out gently so there are no clumps. Fold it round your fingers, then do the same with a second piece, laying it over the first so that the fibres run at right angles. Keep doing this until you have enough wool for the size of ball you want to make. The amount of shrinkage is quite dramatic, but experience will soon tell you how much you need. If you want a multi-coloured ball, just add different colours to the layers as you choose.

 

Felt ball in progress

The dry wool tops, teased out and assembled ready to felt. This ball uses 3 different colours.

 

You then sprinkle hand-hot soapy water (you can make it a little cooler if doing this with young children) over your ‘ball’ of wool tops, and start rolling it between the palms of your hands. Start rolling gently at first, and then apply more pressure as it begins to felt and harden. The finished ball should be pretty firm rather than soft and spongy. Add more hot soapy water if it starts to feel a little dry.

 

Felt Ball in Progress2

The same ball, with the wet felting process just begun. As you can see, it is already quite a bit smaller.

 

When finished, rinse in clear water, give it a squeeze, and leave to dry – it will take a day or two to dry thoroughly depending on the size of the ball.

 

Finished Felt Ball

The finished ball with felting complete.

 

We found the smaller balls were the easiest to make, but we also made some a little larger, and also a few mini-balls, which my youngest son was particularly adept at. The quality of the balls my boys (aged 7 and 9) made, was pretty similar to my own and although I ‘finished off’ one or two of those made by my younger son, to get them really firm, it wasn’t always necessary, so they were able to produce a few quite impressive felt balls of their own.

So having made a whole batch of felt balls, what can you do with them? I haven’t yet decided what to do with mine, but I am giving consideration to the following ideas:

  • A felt ball garland – especially good for smaller balls
  • Felt bead jewellery
  • Felt bead keyring
  • Decorative Mobiles (I thought that since the multi-coloured felt balls look so much like planets, I might do a solar system inspired mobile for my son’s bedroom).
  • A set of multi-coloured felt juggling balls – a lovely tactile home-made gift.

or: Simply display in a bowl!

 

Felt Balls in Bowl

 

I still have loads of coloured felt tops left, so hopefully will find the time in the not too distant future to create some felt fabric too!

 

Felt Balls Pin

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